Drowning Out the Inner Voices

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have just shredded today’s blog. It was preachy, and I didn’t like it. I read it through aloud, as is my habit, and I realised that it sounded like a sermon. I don’t know quite what I was thinking as I wrote it, but quite frankly, I need to keep it to myself.

I know that I began by fulminating about occasional ‘readers’ who are bent upon advising me how I can massively increase my readership, simply by changing everything I say and the way in which I say it, and it developed into a protracted whining rant about the terpsichorean chorus of nay-saying harpies that attempt to constrict us all, when it occurred to me that the communities of hate that currently appear to flourish online are quite unlike any other form of mass-zealotry I can recall in my lifetime (not that I would be able to actually recall anything that was not in my lifetime – but you know what I mean)… Anyway, it has gone now. It is hamster bedding – or would be, if we had one – it would take the world’s most determined (and least discerning) plagiarist to make anything of it now, and I am just beginning to coax my temper back down from the shelf.

All of which leaves me here, staring at a blank template, scratching my head, trying to decide how I should fill it…

I am, by nature, a squirrel – well, except for the sharp teeth, the bushy tail and the tendency to nest in people’s lofts – when I have a surplus (in my case incoherent twaddle rather than acorns) I bury it away. Unfortunately, like my sciuridael friend, when famine hits, I am seldom able to locate my subterranean morsels. Like Citizen Nutkin, the bottom has generally rotted out of anything I do find and I am left to ponder why I thought it was worth a decent burial in the first place. Anyway, it is at times like this, that I have a gentle rootle around in this larder. Occasionally, I find something that I have forgotten about completely and reading it, as if for the first time, it might make me laugh. I am capable of the killer one-liner from time to time (not today – obviously). Mostly, however, I am capable of the kind of stuff that cries out to be buried and forgotten – it seldom improves with age – and more often than not, this is what I find in extremis.

In the past, I would write something and then spend hours correcting the grammar and syntax before messing it all up by adding jokes. These days, I don’t bother so much about the grammar – or the jokes. I try very hard to maintain some variety in what I publish here. I fight against the tendency to develop an ‘identifiable style’ – I am pretty certain that I have cultivated a fundamental lack of it – to me, there is no fun to be had in treading the same path every day. Inevitably, words pop into my head in that micro-second before I find sleep. I still keep a book and a pen by me bed  – although these days the book is usually a Jeremy Clarkson, which I keep for the sole purpose of underlining all the offensive passages – you’d be surprised how time can fly. In my head I play with a number of differing strands with which I weave this blog. ‘Getting On’ is my macramé plant hanger; a cranial crocheted blanket; a sort of Bayeux Embroidery (like a tapestry, but smaller and very much less consequential). Sometimes it’s about how I think fictional characters might face up to old age; sometimes it’s about how a real character should face up to old age and sometimes, it is all just a little fiction. Mostly, however, it is about me, not intentionally so, but a huge amount of navel-gazing does seem to occupy these pages. It is this umbilical lint that tends to get buried. Not always because it isn’t suitable for use, but often because, having just bubbled out of my psyche, it is not always ‘reliable’.

You see, psychologically, I only have myself for reference and I am about as unreliable a ‘control’ as you could ever wish to meet. I have the social skills of a gastropod and the conversational nous of a newt. My capacity for ‘getting it wrong’ is unrivalled. In the realms of the socially inept, I have few peers outside of Peter Griffin.

This is what I have to contemplate – that the voices inside my head are what keep me astride the tightrope, and that these voices will remain in a permanent state of conflict. The voice telling me I can and the voice telling me I can’t; the voice telling me I should and the voice telling me I shouldn’t; the voice telling me that I am in and the voice telling me I am out and, very occasionally, the voice telling me to shake it all about; the voice telling me I am chalk and the voice telling me I am cheese. Two voices attached to the Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote of rational reasoning: the entire rationale of my eventual decision-making process being dependent upon the effectiveness of the products supplied by The ACME Supplies Company.

Like everybody else (this is my belief and you will not persuade me otherwise) I have an internal dialogue that helps to guide me through my daily life, and when one of these competing voices becomes dominant – maybe as a result of caffeine, alcohol, general disaffection, having spent a shitty day decorating the kitchen or Armageddon on the news – what I write tends to lose balance. The internal conversations that flit between the synapses of my frontal lobes are seldom the stuff of entertainment. For much of the time in fact they are actually monologues – even my subconscious is anti-social most of the time. The interminable whine of self-doubt, although ever-present, asserts itself only when I give myself the time to think – so I tend not to do that too often. The voices that jostle for my attention are only heard when I am alone. The need to drown out the nagging little mental manifesto is my reason to avoid silence. It is the reason why I am always so happy with the grandkids. It’s the chatter of life that keeps the pointless, badgering, mithering nonsense inside my head at some kind of manageable distance.

Silence is the void into which all the turmoil of the universe swirls before gurgling down the plughole of inconsequentiality. Like a new record by Simply Red.

Silence is seldom shared, and when it is, it mostly ends up in the shredder.

Turn your back – And you might understand – Become your destiny – And you’ll be a lucky man ‘Killing With Kindness’ (Orzabal, Smith, Pettus) Tears for Fears

Planning for a present that will be the past in the future

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Don’t panic! This is not about to be one of my vacuous philosophical rants (although vacuous it may well be). It is just a part of the ‘having things clearly mapped out’ side of my nature. (That the other part of my nature is ‘shit, just let it happen man’ has always been a problem for me.) You see, at some time in the future I will take a holiday and during that period, this blog will go on. It will do so not because I think that you cannot live without me – that a spell without my inane ramblings will leave you with an unfillable void in your life – but because I have discovered that it can. I have spotted the little button that allows me to schedule publication in advance which means that, providing I have the blogs ready, I can continue to publish even when the pc and I are not even vaguely adjacent.

So, I guess by now, you understand where I am going with this: my problem is how do I approach the blogs that will mark my absence? I cannot, at that point, write about my daily life as if it is… well… at that point my daily life because, patently, it will not then be so. My daily life may, at that actual point, feature shorts and beer and you will not be interested. I could, of course, write about what will then be today, but publish, as it were, tomorrow. My problem, as you will understand, we have known one another for some time now, is that by tomorrow I will have forgotten all about what I have written today (it having become yesterday) and, upon my return, I will not be able to pick up the thread.

I think of this blog like a bag of marbles that when dropped (they are my marbles – you know they are going to be dropped) scatter all over the room. Each day I pick up a new one and see where it takes me. They are disparate orbs, but all from the same bag. They are not the bag, but they are of it. They are all similar, but they have different little swirly colours to the centre. Most of them are found easily, but some run away and hide under the settee, or lurk in the dark somewhere, to be revealed and stood upon at 3am some future melancholy morning. It is the lurking marbles you will probably get whenever I am away. They are from the same bag, but for some reason they may well have rolled a little further away from home. In the salmagundi of my ramblings, they are the little bits at the end of the table that you do not notice until you walk away and see them on somebody else’s plate. By the time you get back to the table, they have all gone and you are forced to distract a child so that you can steal one from their plate whilst they are not looking.

My hope is that only the most diligent of you will spot it. So why, you might ask, are you wittering about it then? Why is it even a problem? Those of you who do not notice, will not notice, and those of you that do will just nod sagely and say, ‘I hope he remembered to put some suncream on his conk before he started to paddle’. Well, you see, it’s the planning. In the main, I publish only three times a week, but often write more. I might, for instance, write a piece on Sunday afternoon, having published Sunday morning, that I earmark for Tuesday evening, but then I will write a piece on Monday that I decide to use instead, so the original piece is pushed back to Thursday, but on Thursday I had planned to write a slightly longer piece and so it gets deferred again. This can carry on for a while, until eventually, through no fault of its own, the piece finds itself on the sub’s bench – not because it is not good enough, but because time has passed it by and I, as I do, have moved on (somewhere – no way of knowing where). Like all subs, these pieces will, some day, get their chance and, in the grand tradition of super-subs, they often turn out to be the bits that people like the best. So, each week I look over what I have produced and think ‘Which one can wait? Which is the least time-dependent?’ And then I will hold it back for whenever it might be needed. But the problem is, I won’t necessarily remember what I have held back. I may reference it in a later blog, not realising that it is actually now an earlier blog. I may find myself building a blog around a piece of jetsam from some previous blether that, in all the confusion, ends up following it. This, for me, is awkward. It requires a level of planning; a system of record-keeping, that is not natural to me. I always have things ‘mapped out’ in my head – I like to know what I have to do, but when that future washes up against the shore of what I have already done and worse, the former actually precedes the latter, I may founder. If, during the course of the months ahead, you notice that chronological ordering has taken something of a sidestep, that answers are proposed before questions are posed, then you will know why, although you may not know when. If you do, then you will also know that I might, at that future time, be wearing shorts and drinking beer – and I ask you to forgive me on both counts.

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny) – Fairport Convention

An Apology from the Man in the Red Plastic Nose

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‘Sometimes,’ said the man in the red plastic nose, ‘I forget what it means to be funny’ was a sentence I wrote ‘in my sleep’ and used as part of a blog in June (There is no means of testing this hypothesis, but the fact remains that the dog has three ears) which tackled the fact that I did not really understand where this line, along with others, had ‘come from’ nor what it referred to. This blog has come about because now I do.

When I set off along this path a little over eighty posts ago now, my aim was simple: to carry on writing in the way that I always had, just on a different platform. Early blogs were very much in the style I would have used in magazines. A few such pieces continue to worm their way into the blog from time to time and the overriding theme of observing my own erratic descent through middle into old age has remained the same – the whole thing is actually my attempt to swim against the flow in this respect, although, unfortunately, I am a crap swimmer, my water-wings have sprung a leak and the tide is very, very strong – but the style has now become very much more conversational, I think (don’t you?) I have started to read and enjoy the blogs of others, I have learned from them the proper way of doing things, and have even been able to respond to them now and again, in my own fashion. The blog remains the same shape, I think, but the colour may have changed a little.

Generally, the small cob-webby under-stairs cupboard in my head where such things are co-ordinated, comes up with a plan, a way to use all of the bits of raggedy paper that I carry around with me all the time, and when the time is right, the blog just spills out of my head, like nonsense from a politician. There are, however, some pieces that I write and would like to use but, somehow, they don’t quite ‘feel right’ as they are. When this happens, I have to print them up and set about them with variously coloured pens; adding, moving, scrubbing out until I think it might be ready. I don’t seem capable of doing this on-screen. The whole painstaking process of correction, excision and embroidery, which I call tantivy (an archaic word that I have just discovered has no relevance whatsoever, but there it is, I’m stuck with it now) often takes some considerable time before I either end up with something that I am happy to post or something for which I would happily buy a cat, in order to line its litter tray.

So, I have such a piece in front of me now. I printed it yesterday and I returned to it this evening with my rainbow of ball-points and my myriad hi-lighters with the intention of ‘sorting it out’, in much the same way as Donald trump vowed to sort out North Korea. I have read it through a few times now. I have scrawled lines out and I have scribbled additions between the lines and in the margins, but the main thing that I have done is to scrawl a single word across it in thick black felt pen. That word is ‘Jokes’. In short, I appear from time to time to have forgotten what I thought I was here to do. I am the man in the red plastic nose. And for that, I apologise.

Addenda: the piece I have before me is about my antipathy for ‘experts’. It’s ok, but somehow it annoys me. I have decided that I will leave it a few days until I look at it afresh – it may even take longer. It will appear in time, I think – as soon as I’ve found some fun in it. Anyway, for no particular reason, other than I just wrote it today and it is about a nose, I hope you enjoy the little limerick below:

A man with a plasticine nose
Tried to model it into a rose.
He practised until he
Produced a red lily,
Which is almost the same I suppose.

My Unceasing Battle With Pratchett’s Californians.

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My mind is in a sling – again! The plaster-cast is not yet ready to be removed. My imagination is tied in a malaise from which it can find no exit. My brain, filled as it currently is with grinding mundanities, has called in all available resources and completely shut down the tiny, sparkly bit (I’ve seen the TV animations) that controls creativity. The great steeplechase of life has pitched yet another hurdle in my path and I am currently waiting for the bloke to turn up with the step ladder.

When I began this little enterprise, I did so with the intention of publishing once a week. This became twice and eventually thrice. It suits me and, it accommodates the time that I would otherwise use less fruitfully. (At this point I pause for a while to consider the phrase ‘less fruitfully’, and quickly lose faith in the concept. We will say ‘less productively’.) I don’t lack ideas (except, perhaps, good ones) – in any case, if you’ve been reading me for any time you will, I am sure, have come to the conclusion that this blog does not rely on ‘the big idea’ to function. More often it relies upon the tiny gripe; the sudden understanding of a concept that the rest of the world has understood since the dawn of time; an itch that, without your participation, I would be unable to scratch.

Every now and then the routine day-to-day, augmented by the annoying, but ultimately surmountable obstacles that life is apt to chuck, fills such space as is available in my head and completely gums up the works. It’s an annoying happenstance, but common enough to not normally warrant mention – unless the annoying happenstance is all I’ve got to talk about.

I am not, I know, unique in this mental torpor. Anyone that has ever put pen to paper or finger to keyboard knows it. Normally, a period of writing inconsequential tosh (approximately forty years in my case) and a short spell in the thinking hat will shake me out of it. The WD40 of a single malt may be required when the cogs are more substantially seized. But today that is not enough.

To cut a long story wosname, short, the point towards which I have been laboriously working – like a disgraced Samurai snail – is this: as I am patently not alone in addressing this impasse, I must, likewise, be in very substantive company when it comes to groping around, searching for a solution. In much the same way that we all have a favourite method of tackling a hangover (mine features fried egg and coca cola) we must each have our own methods of plunging the plughole of creativity. On the basis that I am pretty much up for trying anything of which I am capable (probably not LSD, despite what it did for The Beatles) I would love to know what you do to lubricate the works. How do you – pardon my presumption – get the juices flowing again? I have been becalmed upon this sea for a couple of days now, my thoughts (such as they were) lost in The Bermuda Triangle of inspiration, adrift on a sea that offers only unfathomable depths. My usual methods have not, on this occasion, offered any forward thrust.

I would be massively grateful for any suggestions you are able to make. I need strong magic now that the enchantment has gone from my thinking hat. Help me now, or we could be back here again in no time…

‘There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.’ – Terry Pratchett

There Is No Means of Testing This Hypothesis, but the Fact Remains That the Dog Has Three Ears.

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Please, do not worry. No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog. There was no animal experimentation. No canine extremities were grafted where they did not rightfully belong. No canidaen genetics (whatever that might mean) were in any way modified.  “So what then,” you might well ask “Is this all about?” And I will answer “I really do not know.” You see, when I awoke this morning, there at my bedside lay a tiny scrap of feint lined paper, and upon it, not neatly written exactly, but certainly not illegible, I had written ‘His effete resistance was futile – the monkey, after all, knew its own way home’. The pen was there, the handwriting was my own. It’s not exactly an unusual thing. It happens often enough, although I seldom recall getting out of bed. I do not recall getting pen and paper and I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking when I wrote it down.

Anyway, I left the paper with my laptop, in case it ever came back to me (to date, it has not) but before I left the room I found another piece of paper, roughly folded and nestling on the other side of the desk, filled with several such epigrams – none of which I remember writing, none of which I fully understand. The handwriting, whilst undoubtedly my own, takes several forms from neurotically neat and precise to psychotically drunk and barely legible. I seem to have used a range of pens and, occasionally, a pencil when, I can only presume, I did not feel able to trust myself with a ball-point. I appear to have deliberately kept it with a view to making use of it at some time, but I have no idea how that might happen.

Top of the list is: ‘“Sometimes” said the man in the red plastic nose, “I forget what it means to be funny.”’ I can almost see the sense in that, but I have no idea why I wrote it down or what I intended to do with it. ‘Either I have consumed mind expanding drugs, or this hat is too tight’ is a little bit Woody Allen, but I think it rather points to the fact that I might have partaken of an ill-advised chunk of late-night blue-cheddar or similar because a little further down the page, in the same pen and with my handwriting in the same state of undress, I have written ‘We no longer share our lives: we co-exist – like Dhobi’s Itch and Anthrax’. It was obviously a maudlin night because further still down the page, in a hand that slants in all directions, as though written aboard the Kon Tiki during a force ten hurricane, I have written ‘Life ebbed away from him; unidirectional, double-speed; all tick, no tock…’ And finally, no less disconcerting because it is written in red pen – an implement I do not appear to possess – I have written ‘There is no means of testing this hypothesis, but the fact remains that the dog has three ears’. And if you think that I might have an explanation to offer, I’m sorry, but I don’t…

Now That Father’s Day Has Said Goodbye…

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Have your cards already been taken from the shelf? Has that special bottle of beer they bought you been used by your wife to bait the slug trap? Have the children (dependent upon age) returned to vomiting down your work shirt; poking you in the eye with a spoon; throwing everything out of the shopping trolley faster than you can throw it in; slamming the bedroom door so fiercely that next door have to rearrange every photo they have hanging on their walls; reminding you that whatever you have said or done it is simply ‘just not fair’?

Don’t despair, it will be ok. By the time they go to Uni they will be talking to you; by the time they are in their thirties they will quite like you and by the time you reach sixty they may even have forgiven you for embarrassing them at their wedding. Parenthood is meant to be challenging – it stops contentment seeping in – and fatherhood is particularly so because you can’t even fall back on the ‘You should be grateful. I carried you for nine months. I protected you. I gave birth to you!’ All you’ve got is ‘I assembled the drawers in your bedroom’ which doesn’t have quite the same impact. Kids are a challenge that parents have to face up to, as parents are a challenge to kids – mind you, there’s only ever going to be one winner and it ain’t gonna be you, so you might as well suck that one in here and now.

Have you ever wondered why your stroppy, moody, needy, semi-bi-polar teenager seems ok to everybody else? It’s because they are. It’s not always easy to remember when they’re demonstrating what a crap parent you are, but realising that ‘JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!’ probably means ‘Give me five minutes’ is a good place to start. And don’t think for a second that I think I know the answers: I am no perfect dad. I scraped through, the same as everybody else. I’ve had my own moments of total irrationality; my own moments of knowing that I just got it all terribly wrong; my own moments of howling at the moon, but somehow we all came through it.

It is my experience that most young people are actually good people – they want to do the right thing. Of course, there are a few little shits – I fear I could have been one myself – but most emerge from pubescence as decent honest people and most of them will make the world a better place in which to live.

I have two beautiful daughters and just one single piece of advice to offer: stick at it dads. Unless you really screw it up, they will grow to like you (they’ll always love you – even when they hate you) and, in the end, you’ll all be much the better for it.

Oh, and by the way, find out where the cards have gone and store them carefully away. One day, when you’re not at your best, you will find them when you’re not looking and they will make you smile…

 

My Father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic. – Spike Milligan

Be born, grow, mature, die. Why?

 

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When I first saw the six word stories of PoojaG and Tetiana Aleksina/Tony Single I was, to say the least, intrigued. I am by nature an old windbag. I find it hard to stop myself before I have slopped six thousand words around the screen, never mind six. When I start, I seldom know where I’m heading until I get there. When I begin a piece I seldom have any idea of where I’m going to stop, until I hit the buffers.

So, what you have at the head of this page is my very own six word story. I was in some doubt as to whether what I had written actually qualified as a ‘story’, but when I looked it over it had a beginning, a middle and a definite end. It also had intrigue: it invited audience participation. (BTW, if you believe you know the answer, you are one of the lucky ones, don’t question your knowledge. Me? I struggle to understand the question.) It had, subject to your own imagination, the potential to encapsulate every possible plot device you can think of. I was quite pleased with it.

…And then my mind, as it does, skipped on. If I was to write an ‘average’ book-worth of such stories, it would contain ten thousand separate tales. Could any other author produce such an anthology? And if each story had a title? What if each title also included six words? A mere five thousand yarns in my collection. Not quite such an impressive tome perhaps, but still the source of a tale a day for within a whisker of fourteen years (allowing for bank holidays). More intriguingly, I could instead go for writing two blogs per hour, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, at my current output. (Obviously just one per hour with a six word title.)

But there is only so much one can take of a good thing, and God knows where that leaves me with just the fair-to-middling to offer.

I considered, briefly, the possibility of writing my blogs as I do now, before taking the scissors to them, à la David Bowie, and chopping out pithy six-word sections that would stand proud and profound in isolation. That, of course, threw up (or possibly down) yet another stumbling block: he was a genius, he could do that. I, in contrast, would probably end up with something that more closely resembled the contents of a six year old’s Scrabble board. Neither proud nor profound and probably, except in the most insubstantial of ways, not even a story.

And so, despite the manifold attractions of the six word way forward, I decided to return to the sort of claptrap that I am capable of producing, and to leave the six word stories to those who can do them, whilst I remain:

Watching what others do much better.

On Inkbiotic’s Sunshine Blogger Award

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A deliberately generic picture of the sunshine…

 

When I was much, much younger, I walked around a room accompanied by a lady with a clipboard and picked out my favourite gas fire. For my efforts, I was awarded with a Mars Bar and I can confidently state that that was the very last survey in which I ever willingly took part. However, based almost entirely on the basis that Inkbiotic finds me funny (I don’t know if anybody makes expandable hat bands, but if they don’t, I will suggest it to Marks & Spencer) and after the shortest of pauses which allowed me to look up ‘metaphor’, I decided, sort of, to take this one on in the best way I can…

So, What recurring dream do you have? Do you know why? Well, I have actually discussed the subject of dreams myself in my early blog and it would have to be the one where I suddenly realise that I am naked whilst walking to school. It’s a very common dream I think. (Please tell me that it is.) The only rational explanation that I can give for having this dream is that I am asleep.

If you could choose any name for yourself, what would you choose? Sexy would be a good one wouldn’t it? Not because it would suit me (Dog-Eared would do that much better) but it would just be such fun studying the faces of school teachers, employers, bank staff as they had to greet you with ‘Hello Sexy’. It would almost be worth the humiliation of constantly having it pointed out to you that you are not. In Junior School (I’m not sure that such a thing even exists now. Ages 7-11.) I wanted to be my best mate and I would have gladly taken his name. I think that by the time you are sixty, nominative determination has well and truly kicked in and so, I fear, I am now thoroughly Colin (Child in Gaelic) and that I shall remain.

What’s the weirdest fact you know? That’s a difficult one because my head is full of them, although the weirdest thing about most of them is that I know them in the first place. My dad had a friend who was ‘addicted’ to nature programmes on the TV and he told us once that he’d seen a documentary about a snake that, when hungry, slowly ate itself. My dad pointed out that if it did that, it would simply turn itself inside out, to which Charlie (real name) simply replied ‘It’s a fact!’ Now, whilst I am prepared to bow to such logic, I am pretty certain that it is not verifiable, so I am going to offer you something that, I believe, is: if spread out, the surface area of the human lungs would cover a tennis court (and, presumably, make breathing very difficult).

What’s a secret about you that no-one would ever guess? Easy. Am I telling the truth?

Do you prefer to stride or amble? Why? Stride. The most annoying thing in the whole world is a pavement blocked by an entire family of young, fit amblers.

Name a small thing that made you smile today. Photo’s of my grandkids always hit the button. Mind you, so do photo’s of Donald Trump’s hair in the wind. And Melania’s face whenever she’s with him. And the fact that Boris Johnson might one day be our Prime Minister – no wait, that’s not a smile: it’s a nervous tic.

What made you want to write or keep a blog? I have always written. I used to write for numerous humour magazines that no longer exist (worryingly, I appear to be the only thing that they had in common). Initially my blogs were basically magazine articles on a single, unified theme. Slowly they have evolved (although I do still like to throw in the odd old-school ‘skit’ from time to time.) Over the time that my blog has been going, I think that I have become a little more reflective and have probably revealed more about myself than anyone would ever want to know. You are my psychoanalyst! Get your notebooks out, we could be here for some time.

What was your best decision ever? Well, my wife reads this from time to time – if there’s nothing on the telly – so, I have to say that except for getting married it would be growing a beard. I have a very fair skin and, pre-beard, it was always sore. After shaving, I resembled an inside out pig. Now, I no longer feel sore, although I do still look like an inside out pig, just with a beard.

What could have gone wrong today, but didn’t? My life is a minefield: I could have ricked my neck getting out of bed; stubbed my toe getting into the shower; washed my hair with bleach-based toilet cleaner; put both contact lenses into the same eye; fallen down the stairs or, worst of all, put my pants on back to front – all of which are in my armoury, but none of which I have actually done today. I haven’t tripped over a kerb, crashed my shin against a coffee table, dribbled my lunch down my shirt nor my coffee down my trousers. Also, I haven’t spent the last hour staring blankly at the computer screen wondering what I was going to say.

For a week you can have any job you want and be good and successful at it, what do you choose? When I was young I used to read a comic strip called The Perishers and it had a character called Marlon. He could never decide whether he wanted to be a world-famous brain surgeon or a man that went down sewers in big wellies. I feel a bit the same and, despite the lure of Chief Taster at Cadbury, I have decided to think big. I would be Prime Minister of the UK of course. In my lifetime, I don’t remember anybody else ever doing that job successfully for a week. Of course, without the guarantee of success, it would be the last job on Earth I would ever want. Imagine being the person who believes they know better than everybody else. Imagine the people you would have to spend your days with. However, time it right and you could eradicate poverty, sort out the education and health services and totally outlaw savoury ice-cream. Why is that even a thing? It is for people who have lost all joy from their lives. Ice-cream has to be sweet. It should be drizzled in syrup and covered in sprinkles. It should have a Flake. It should form rivulets along the sides of the cornet and a puddle in your crotch. It should leave your fingers sticky for a minimum of twenty-four hours. It should not taste of snail and anchovy.

What’s the most inexplicable thing that’s ever happened to you? I cannot begin to explain… Honestly, the most inexplicable thing that ever really happens to me is that people put up with me. I would love to tell you that I have seen a ghost or met an alien, but I have not. I have, however, seen the future so, don’t worry, you will forgive me in time…

As for blogs I would recommend, well, Inkbiotic is my daily ‘go to’ and – I have had this independently verified – the best thing since sliced bread. I also love Tony Self’s The Self-Talk Show, which is a scattergun of mad ideas and V’s MILLENNIALLIFECRISIS which poses all sorts of questions and offers all sorts of insights, but there are many others.

P.S. The questions answered by Inkbiotic were posed by Land Manatee (who I am just about to check out) but I have just inadvertently brought up a photo of a real manatee. Now, all I know about this creature is that it is what the ancient mariners believed to be a mermaid. Well, I cannot tell you how these guys were passing their time, but something was making them blind…

The Thinking Hat

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I have written before about not knowing what to write about – it’s what I write about when I don’t know what to write about. It happens surprisingly often. Most days I get home with pockets full of scraps of scribbled-on paper which, when laid out on my desk somehow coalesce into something coherent. Or at least as close to coherent as I ever get. I write pretty much every day and I write twice as much as I need. I have a computer full of ‘Just in case I can’t think of what to write about’ pieces and I do raid them every now and then. I could publish twice the number of blogs I actually do, but I do not do so for two very good reasons:
1. I realise that I already skate upon the perilously thin ice of boring you to death, and doing so on an even more regular basis could very well be terminal for both of us, and…
2. Well, it’s tempting fate isn’t it? I know my brain. The very second I let it into my little secret ‘Listen, we’re easily writing enough waffle to get us through six blogs a week. I think I’m going to go for it.’ It will seize like an outdoor padlock and no amount of WD40 will get it open again.

This is the state into which my cerebrum has currently descended. It does so maybe once a fortnight. It hitches up its drawers and lurches off into its dark corner, pulling the door tight behind it, where it rocks gently back and forth, sucking its thumb and screaming for silence – I hate silence. Sometimes I leave it alone, knowing that by tomorrow it will be back to its old self and spewing out more tripe than I know what to do with, but other times I fear that its hermit days might become permanent and I need to face it out.

Shaping up to the content of one’s own head is not always straightforward. For a start, if it doesn’t want to come out to play, it isn’t always easy to make it. Coffee will sometimes drag it out; chocolate or whisky (all three if it is being unusually intransigent) but flushing the bloody thing out into the open isn’t guaranteed to make it co-operate. Sometimes it sulks like a five-year old child, swallowing its Lego so that it can’t possibly eat broccoli, sometimes it just stares at the wall. And you have to be particularly careful about where the confrontation takes place. What happens inside your head can quite often spill out of your mouth, and that seldom looks good on the bus.

I’ve been writing for many years: sometimes moderately successfully, sometimes less so, but always writing. I was taught long ago that writer’s block does not exist and, although I know very well that it does, I adhere to this mantra. What I was taught to do was to write – it doesn’t matter what – that the very act of writing will spur the brain into action and, after a little cough to clear its throat, it will start to drip gold onto the paper. I know people who routinely throw away the first thousand words they write every day because they know it will be junk. There are days when I would willingly go through their bins. There are many days when the first thousand words I write are the only thousand words I write and, junk or no junk, they are kept for future reference. It’s a bit like being bored to death by a 0-0 draw, but keeping the game on the recorder just in case you somehow missed a goal, despite the fact that you know the final score.

Now, I must ask you to indulge me here, I am not prone to navel gazing: it has never really helped me and anyway, I can’t do it without a mirror these days. What I am currently gazing at is (are?) my finger nails. Don’t worry, I have not pulled them out in a fit of pique: they remain attached firmly to my digits. A little too firmly in fact. You see, I have a nail which routinely splits along its length. (Yes, I would love to know why.) It drives me mad, so I have taken to superglueing it together. And, yes, I know you are miles ahead of me, what I am currently looking at is a handful of glistening finger nails, attached to fingers with which I dare not pick up anything. I cannot decide what to do with them. I cannot, for instance, type into Google ‘What should I do with a handful of superglue?’ knowing that I will get no further than ‘W’… and I do not want to become any more firmly attached to the keyboard than I already am. I dare not run them under the tap, as I’m pretty certain that it will just set my fingers in such a manner that to separate them will mean that I have to succeed where Al Capone failed; by removing my own fingerprints. I have no idea of the depth of skin on a finger, but I’m pretty certain that set superglue goes deeper. Anyway, what I am currently doing is watching it as it dries and typing, as best I can, with my one unaffected pinkie.

Ah yes, and there is one more thing you need to know. I am wearing a hat. It is my thinking hat. It didn’t start off as my thinking hat, you understand. It started off as my hat. I have a head that is generally unsuited to titfers, but I found this one last year and I liked it: my wife didn’t object too strongly and only one of my children refused to be seen with me whilst I was wearing it. So I wore it. However, spring has now unfurled into summer and a much lighter hat has become de rigueur. My grey felt hat has taken up residence in my office and I have developed a habit of wearing it whenever I am searching for an idea. Due to the finger-issue I have been unable to remove it. I do not want to take it with me wherever I go, so, on my head it remains until my fingers have dried. Still, it’s not all bad. It has given me the germ of an idea…

Coming Over All Philosophical

Time never heals: it just rearranges the furniture so that you can find another way around the room.

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So, having been accused of ‘coming over all philosophical’ I thought I’d better check out what that means before I decided whether to take offence or not. According to my normal source of ultra-reliable information (Wicki) Philosophy (from Greek) is the love of wisdom. The study of general and fundamental questions about existence… That’s not too bad is it? Having checked out the definition I Googled images and the first thing I noticed is that most philosophers appear to be Greek, a minimum of 2,000 years old and have, at some point over the passing millennia, had some portion of their noses chiselled off. Perhaps that is just the way of the world for those of a philosophical bent. Turn your mind to the fundamental questions of existence and some silly bugger comes along and chisels your nose off; leaving you to spend eternity facing the world with nowhere to perch your glasses.

I am familiar with only one modern philosopher – Kant – and I think I might have been compared to him at school.

Now, the reason that I was accused of being philosophical is that I scrawled the short epigram at the head of this page on a scrap of paper (directly below a reminder to buy toilet rolls as it happens) for no other reason than it came into my head. (I know, I know. I was at work so I had plenty of time on my hands.) After it was pointed out to me, I read it through and thought that I must have remembered it from somebody else, but, as far as I can see, I did not. So, what I must now ponder upon, in my own trite and clichéd kind of way is, am I philosophical? Indeed, this entire blog may be, for all I know, a philosophical discussion. In fact, it occurs to me that we are all philosophers (in which case I caution you to take steps to protect your nose). We all study – or at least consider – the fundamental questions of existence. Who amongst us has never wondered “Why me?” Who has not accidentally switched on X-Factor and wondered about the futility of life?

Of life, love, death and religion I know nothing more than what it takes to make it through the day. Yet it seems to me that everybody has something to say and that everything that is said is of value – if only to make you aware of how fundamentally you disagree with it. Of course, for those who can only come up with hate and abuse – well, you’ve just proved me wrong haven’t you?

I will leave you with two quotes, both of which are definitely by other people, either of which may (or may not) be philosophical. You decide.

‘By the time I realised my father was right, I had a son telling me I was wrong.’ (Henry Winkler)

‘I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.’ (Emo Phillips)

PS Whilst I was considering what to write today I trimmed my beard without realising that the head had fallen off the trimmer. Consequently I no longer have a beard and when I look in the mirror I am greeted by an un-set blancmange with eyes. Try to be philosophical about that!